David McDermott was born in 1952 in Hollywood, California. He studied at Syracuse University, New York from 1970 to 1974. Peter McGough was born in 1958 in Syracuse, and studied at the same university in 1976. Their paths never crossed until they both moved to New York City some years later and started their artistic collaboration in 1980. They have since become well known for their way of blending art and daily life.
Their photography involves appropriating images and objects from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, where they project an image of themselves as gentlemen, posing as erudite, impertinent characters. In this way they have chosen to immerse themselves in the period of the Victorian era at the close of the 19th century to the style of the 1930s. During the 1980s, McDermott & McGough dressed, lived, and worked as artists and “men about town,” about 1900-1928: they wore top hats and detachable collars, and converted their townhouse on Avenue C in New York City’s East Village, which was lit only by candlelight, to their authentic mid-19th century ideal. Like their lifestyle, their photographs and paintings betoken a flat refusal to embrace the historical present. This obsession with the past is reflected in the subjects and styles they bring back to life, and in the precise fictional dates they give to their works. The personal dimension of their work makes it into a deliberately provocative and controversial contemporary artistic performance dealing with political and sociological issues. McDermott & McGough are best known for using alternative historical processes in their photography, including the techniques of cyanotype, gum bichromate, salt, tri-color carbo, platinum and palladium. Among the subjects they approach are popular art and culture, religion, medicine, advertising, time, fashion and sexual behavior.
The duo’s work has appeared in solo and group exhibitions at institutions such as Cheim & Read, Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Pat Hearn Gallery, Massimo Audiello Gallery, Galleria Gian Enzo Sperone, Sperone Westwater, Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Whitney Museum of American Art, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Centre Pompidou, Kunsthalle Wien, Manezh Moscow and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Previous exhibitions also include the Whitney Biennial, New York, in 1987, 1991 and 1995. In 2017 Dallas Contemporary decided to dedicate to the artist duo a big museum retrospective opening September 29th.
McDermott & McGough currently split their time between Dublin and New York city.